P.J. Cowan has played a lot of golf in his life, and he's
Open three times. But yesterday, he shot a 69 and called it the best round of
"And I'll tell you why," Cowan said as he stood outside the clubhouse of
Fox Hill Country Club. "One, because the conditions were so difficult and the
course is difficult. Two, because it's a chance to play in the Open at
Bethpage. That makes it terrifically special."
Cowan's 3-under-par round led the Long Island Local Qualifying for the U.S.
Open on the Black Course at Bethpage next month. There were 10 spots available
to advance to the June 3 sectional qualifier in Westchester at Century Country
Club and Brae Burn Country Club. Cowan, who grew up in Hicksville but plays a
lot of golf in Florida, decided to try qualifying on Long Island rather than
down south because he knew the conditions would be tougher here.
"When you play down in Florida, it's just a birdie fest," Cowan said.
"Tough conditions play into the strength of my game, so I wanted to qualify
here because I knew it would be tough. Plus the sectional qualifier will have
24 spots available to advance to the Open because a lot of Tour guys are
playing in it. The more spots available, the better chance I have."
The wind was howling at Fox Hill yesterday, though it died down later in
the afternoon. Cowan had one of the early afternoon times and caught the better
weather, though the course still played difficult. Mark Brown of Tam
O'Shanter, playing in the morning, shot a superb 71 that was good for third
place, along with Darrell Kestner of Deepdale, who played in the afternoon.
Marc Turnesa, playing in the afternoon, was second with a 70. He was 5
under after 11 holes before playing the last seven in 3 over.
Four players were tied at 73 for the last four spots. Bob Longo, 52, the
head pro at the Seawane Club and Jamison Friedman of Southampton made birdie 4
on the first playoff hole to gain the spots. Raymond Floyd, son of 1986 U.S.
Open winner Ray Floyd, and Kirk Oguri, an assistant pro at Crab Meadow, were
eliminated in the playoff.
Cowan has won three New York State Opens on the Black Course, in 1997, '98
and 2000. He grew up in Hicksville and estimated that he has played the Black
Course at least 1,000 times. "Not all of them were 18 holes," he said.
"Sometimes, we had to stop because it was too dark."
He made the field for the Open at Congressional in 1997, missing the cut.
He was first alternate for the Open at Shinnecock in 1995, but no one pulled
out at the last minute to give him a spot. Now he takes his quest to
Westchester for the Open he wants most to be a part of.
"That would be just the best thing ever in my golf career," said Cowan, a
teaching pro this year at Great Rock Golf Club. "It's my home course and to be
playing an Open on it would be a dream come true, really."
Fox Hill Country Club, Baiting Hollow. Ten players reached sectionals.
P.J. Cowan 69
Marc Turnesa 70
Mark Brown 71
Darrell Kestner 71
Greg Hurd 72
Mike Gilmore 72
Ron Faria 72
Rick Hartmann 72
*Bob Longo 73
*Jamison Friedman 73
*Won in playoff